Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Deposition: TotalRust

Since I'm dedicating a whole week to the music of Israeli doom label Totalrust, I would be remiss if I didn't interview the label head himself.

Full Metal Attorney: Your label is said to be "dedicated to 'extreme music' with a strong focus on 'extreme doom.'" What is the mission of TotalRust? And why doom?

TotalRust: TotalRust Music supports many sorts of extreme music and you can find bands from different styles under our wings, but yes, the main focus is indeed on Extreme DOOM. Although my musical taste is pretty varied, you can say doom is my cup of tea for years now (especially the extreme and experimental corners of this genre) and it obviously affects TotalRust as well.

As for the mission of TotalRust, from the beginning the idea was (and still is actually) to provide a serious devoted home to unique bands and artists I respect. It's as simple as that.

FMA: Can you give us a brief history of the label? And who is the "we" the "about" page on your web site refers to?

TR: I created Totalrust Music in 2004. It started as an underground distro actually, but very quickly we started to work on our first release (the DOOM compilation "Asymmetry") and signed a few AWESOME bands like The Knell, Wraith of the Ropes, Funeralium . . . During these eight years of existence I had the honor to work with some excellent musicians and as for now we released 19 albums and three demos. The label has been built up really nicely to this point, operated from pure passion for muSICK and despite all the difficulties will keep growing and delivering the goods. In many ways, you can say it's a one man show, but TotalRust's crow features two more fellas; Alec Zalogin, who keeps providing the label and its artists awesome artworks and Ofir Messer, TotalRust's webmaster from the first day of totalrust-music.com (recently he created the fine metal webzine ovmetal.com, feel free to check it out). They both are good friends of mine, highly professional and they are part of this structure from its first steps.

FMA: The guys in Promiscuity said there is essentially no metal scene in Israel. What's your take on the subject?

TR: Besides taking part in some metal events with TotalRust, I am not really involved in the local scene, so I doubt if I am the man to answer this, but overall I think we have a pretty solid scene here. Gigs of local bands, other metal events once in a while (like markets, parties etc), forums that are active, a few producers who bring "overseas bands" once in a few months and some bands like Salem, Orphaned Land, Sonne Adam . . . who "made it" outside of Israel. So even if it's not too exciting, it's still a metal scene.

FMA: You are based out of Israel, yet it looks like most of the bands you sign are out of Europe. How did that come to be?

TR: The way I see it, if the band fits the vision and the idea of the label, the location doesn’t really matter. "The internet world" we are living in allows this and the fine TotalRust's list of signed bands proves it.

FMA: How do you decide which bands to sign?

TR: Obviously there are a lot of aspects to consider in this decision (especially when TotalRust is an underground label that releases only a few albums a year), but in the end of the day there are no exact rules. The roster gathers bands from different genres, yet, all of them share that recognizable core that fits the spirit of the label. That's what's really important. It's not about signing some well known band, or the next big thing. Furthermore, signing unfamiliar / new bands is pretty common in TotalRust. I know other labels don’t really like to take this risk (especially these days, when selling CDs became almost impossible), but for me, there is something really exciting in working with new acts that I believe in. A nice challenge that brings extra motivation.

FMA: What have been some of your most successful releases? What are the releases
you're most proud of?

TR: I honestly can say that I'm really proud of all the TotalRust releases. Some sell more,no doubt, but each release means a lot to me and has its own story. Take The Knell album for example, the band started around 1997 and had many ups and downs during their first 8 years of existence. So in many ways, the deal they signed with TotalRust in 2005 gave them the kick in the ass they needed to cut the crap and finally complete this old school doom elite. In retrospect, I am very proud to have been taking this great potential and putting it into actions. It could have been a big loss for the doom/ death metal scene.

FMA: Which new or upcoming releases are you most excited about?

TR: We actually have a hectic schedule for the months to come and I 'am pretty excited for the nice things it will bring. Next attack will bring Tort's debut (Spanish Sludge/Doom featuring ex Lords of Bukkake members), Chaos Die's album (French Black Metal featuring members of Ataraxie and Hyadningar), Lurk's full–length (awesome Doom/Death from Finland) and Israeli Geist album (think the Israeli version of Urfaust) . In the beginning of next year, we will release BOTANIST III - easily one of the brilliant acts of today's underground scene. Also, we just signed another contract with mighty HIGHGATE for releasing their third album and we'll also try to finally complete the Divanity full –length. There are more things, of course (like a Divanity / Wreck of the Hesperus split for example), but let's start with these first . . . .

FMA: Is a physical media label still a viable business model? If yes, how long can that continue? What do you think is the future of music distribution/formats?

TR: Unfortunately running this kind of "business model" is almost impossible these days, especially for a label like TotalRust that functions in a very old school way. We don’t sell files, still trade with other labels, insist on sending real promos etc. Virtual revolution treats to swallow us all, so in a way the future for this kind of structures is indeed uncertain. Yet, there is still a demand at the underground scene for physical formats. This corner still refused to neglect the complete package and I believe it will stay like this. With all the beauty of downloading tons of new music on a regular basis and the fact that everything is more accessible, the real value of things is compromised and slowly getting lost. I have no intentions to take part in this and same goes for the label.

FMA: How do you feel about Spotify, and the recent controversy between that company and Century Media?

TR: In the world we're living in platforms like Spotify are obviously pretty important. The thing is, in Israel we don't really have Spotify, so I admit I don’t know much about this exact site. I did hear about the controversy between them and Century Media, but don’t know the details, so I prefer not to get into this.

FMA: How do bands benefit from having a label like TotalRust, instead of just doing everything on their own (e.g. through Bandcamp)? How do the fans benefit?

TR: Bands indeed have the option to do everything on their own these days. Yet, and with all the respect to websites like bandcap, I still believe that having a serious supported label behind you that is devoted, provide strong distribution and can take care for a real promotion is a whole different story. Not to mention in some cases, labels offer also some recording budget, the option to work with some great artists for free etc. The fan's benefit is the fact that they can still expect high quality (heavy) music to be released on physical formats and find these pieces at their favorite labels, webstores, distros…out there. Music is much more than files and physical formats bring aspects that are important as much as the tunes themselves. I believe that without them the experience is missing, so to my eyes it's a real benefit for both bands and fans who share this point of view.

FMA: If you could force everyone in the world to listen to one album, what would it be and why? [FMA note: No one has yet taken this opportunity to pick something that would really freak everyone out.]

TR: Listening to music is not an objective experience, so I have no interest in forcing anyone to listen to something specific (unless I know the person and think I can introduce him to something that will make a difference to him). Nevertheless, listen to old "Swans". Band kills.

FMA: Thanks!

TR: Thanks for setting up this interview and for the support. Keep up the good work and cheers!


  1. Mr. TotalRust, please consider opening a Bandcamp for your label. That way those of us who don't care about physical media can buy high-quality digital copies of the Totalrust releases.

  2. Cool interview. Glad to see small labels surviving this bullshit MP3 culture and keeping it old school.